Thursday, October 21, 2010

WHAT REALLY IS NEEDED TO MAKE A PRODUCT /BRAND WORK IN ASIA?

A friend of mine, working for an MNC asked for some help in preparing a presentation on marketing strategy for Asia. He knows that at Onio we have been working on Innovation & Brand strategy consulting for many international companies entering India currently. He just happened to ask for this friendly help, sitting in his office in Singapore. His initial thought, which he sent to me were sketchy and mostly clich├ęd i.e. Asian’s like ‘foreign brands’, ‘foreign technology’ but ‘local messaging’, and ‘local customisation’ etc. etc.

This set me thinking, on how can I capture a succinct reply to this question from Onio’s stand point, driving into several thousands of interactions we have done in past with consumers and business leaders over last few years.

Here is my view-

3Ds of success in Asia : DESIGN & DISTRIBUTION & DIALOGING.
When the market is just about opening up for a category, distribution is a key. Without visibility of the sales and service counters nearby, no consumer puts any value to huge hoardings installed for him, nor does he care for any star endorsements in the million dollar ads. FIAT’s success in India started with correcting this D, through tie-up with Tatas. Tommy Hilfiger is riding on Titan watches. Nissan is riding on Mahindra’s network. Hyundayi is surely a pioneer for replicating Maruti’s network strength all on its own.

Other D is for good design. Good design takes care of not only the right aesthetics, as commonly understood, but also the right ergonomics, usage of right materials keeping in mind the local sensitivities, right surface finishes and graphics, right amount of technology (need not be latest) right packaging, right interactions with consumers etc. etc. When we say, localization- It is important to understand that what elements actually need to be localized and what should be left as it is, because consumers today, are almost becoming global consumers. Their aspirations are more and more global aspirations. Hence there is always a danger of OVER-INTERPRETATION’ of what local sensibilities mean. Conducting a DESIGN RESEARCH or ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH apart from conventional statistical research is a step in this direction. Understanding INSIGHTS beyond DATA and converting those, into a right PRODUCT is a game lesser understood that people would like to believe.

Third D is about dialoguing with consumers. No brand arrogance, no premium tag, no amount of ‘holier than thou’ attitude actually works in the middle stratas of the consumers. Brands like Mercedes also had to tweak their marketing strategies in India, in favour of the local dynamics. In spite of being in India for more than a decade when it came to launching the luxury buses, Mercedes realized that they will have to proactively persuade, facilitate loans, educate the buyers on ROI and take care of training to their employees. No one walks into a Mercedes showroom with a bag full of notes, just because it is what it is. Thus a dialogue with the prospective consumers/stakeholders is an important part which has to happen, top-down within the organisation.

Dialoguing is a bigger phenomenon than a few consumer interactions. It is a continuous engagement process. It has bigger cultural connotation within the organisation than only externally oriented mandate of listening to customers. For a multi-cultural organisation trying to make a dent in Asian market, it is important that there is a heavier emphasis on building a culture of learning to respect mutual cultural backgrounds. Every employee is a potential marketer for the company. Positive energy created by the employees goes a long way in enhancing the top line in not-so-visible ways. So apart from market focused 3Ds of success in Asia, a check on internal 3Ds is equally important.